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Kidworks: The Poli-Tricks of, 'It Was A Free Venue…'

Today, Kidworks, a faith-based non-profit organization, in collaboration with Latino Health Access and the Orange County Bar Foundation, will have hosted the “Summer Sensation” youth event for the second consecutive year. It will be hosted in one of the venues leading the process of gentrification in the city of Santa Ana, The Yost Theater.


Gentrification, simply put, is the process by which a group of people with a certain set of demographic markers (such as rich, white, males) displaces by force another group of people with a different set of demographic markers (such as poor, people of color) as a result of class and racial inequality/inequity.

Historically, rich white males look for impoverished downtowns and invest money on them by buying most of the downtown property with the intention of taking it and making the downtown area more profitable and appealing to higher class consumers and families.

As a result, the rent in low-income neighborhoods, in which people of color and other minorities tend to live, starts to rise drastically forcing the people living there to leave their home.

Aside from higher rents, family owned shops and middle-class owned businesses are often forced out of business after big corporations are brought in by developers and contractors. Police discrimination, police brutality, I.C.E. raids, criminalization of youth and gang injunctions tend to increase as well as a result of racist gentrification tactics which all aim to displace people by force in order to make room for new buildings and wealthy consumers.

How Is Gentrification Happening In Santa Ana?

The Chase family, which is in the business of gentrifying downtowns across the U.S., owns a large portion of downtown Santa Ana. Along with Santa Ana Mayor, Miguel Pulido, certain city council members, other downtown building owners, developers and contractors (the gentrification committee) they proposed to gentrify Santa Ana via the “Renaissance Plan”, The Yost, and the Artist Village.

Santa Ana residents fought the Renaissance Plan and the undemocratic process of renaming the downtown area. Those proposals did not go through. As a result, the gentrification committee strategized and came up with another plan.

This gentrification committee disbanded the Downtown Business Association and created Downtown Inc.. This organization, which dictates what happens in the downtown area, is controlled by the Chase family, none of whom reside in Santa Ana. Aside from renaming the Fiesta Marketplace to East End Bluffs, Downtown Inc. illegally imposed a tax on the downtown businesses and property owners. The illegally imposed tax by a non-governmental agency was found to be unconstitutional and repealed.

How else has gentrification affected and impacted Santa Ana?

Rent Hikes

These wealthy property owners like the Chase family have forced their tenants to vacate by continuously raising the rent to the point that only rich people can afford to live in their buildings. They also have refused to renew the lease of business whose consumer base are working-class Latinos. For example, Artist Village Apartments run at about $2,000/month and a local “Latino” bakery, Moya’s Bakery, has been denied a lease renewal.

Removal of Cultural Markers

Downtown Inc., following a gentrification tactic stemming from colonization, has in fact gotten rid of many important cultural markers in the downtown area such as the memorable kiosko and carousel. They also got rid of the benches near the Yost Theater, thus reducing the presence of families from Santa Ana in the area in front of The Yost.

Force Local “Latino” Businesses Out

According to an article by a local media outlet published in 2011, “Chase has taken steps to set that plan in motion. He has refused to give new leases to his Fourth Street tenants unless they offer more merchandise that appeals to customers other than working-class Latinos.”

I.C.E. Raids and Racist Driver License Check Points

From 2006-2008, there were many I.C.E. raids in the downtown area. These I.C.E. raids terrorized our community by taking place in the downtown area, at bus stops and in apartment complexes. At the same time, the Santa Ana Police Department began conducting checkpoints targeting unlicensed drivers. This organized crime scheme between the SAPD and the towing companies cost hard working undocumented families in Santa Ana millions of dollars a year in impounded vehicle and ticket fees.

Police Brutality and Gang Injunctions

Our communities suffer from many reported cases of police brutality and killings of Santa Ana residents by the Santa Ana Police Department. Gang injunctions have criminalized whole neighborhoods and have struck fear amongst those that live in areas under them. These tools of fear, coercion and terror are clear examples of how gentrification is not just the “beautification” of an area; it is the brutalization and criminalization of a certain group of people in that given area as well. These tactics are also aimed to displace people by force in order to make room for a more “diverse” and wealthier community to move in.

Criminalization of Youth

Orange County has the highest rates of youth deportations in the State. The majority of the youth in detention are from Anaheim and Santa Ana. The number one reason that youth end up in a juvenile detention facility is for violating probation. The main source of how youth in Orange County end up on probation is school.

This means that schools are sending our youth to prison at a higher rate than they are graduating them. Latino youth make up 46% of the youth population in Orange County but make up 74% of the youth population in juvenile detention. The probation department currently deliberately shares information of youth on probation with ICE. ICE puts these youth in a database for later deportation proceeding regardless if the youth is probation minor offenses.

Mortgage and Loan Fraud

Our communities have suffered foreclosures, evictions, and repossession of their homes due to predatory lending practices or “development” by Disney or other corporations. This has forced many to leave Santa Ana and Anaheim in look for lower rent prices in Riverside. Gentrification is pushing low-income minorities further into the desert and away from cities near the beach.

S.A.P.D. and the I.C.E. Contract

Currently the City of Santa Ana has a contract with ICE. This involves the Santa Ana City Jail, which is currently owned by the city. The ICE contract allows ICE to house ICE-Detainees in the city jail at a rate of $82 a day per detainee. This means that the Santa Ana City Jail receives $82 a day from ICE per undocumented person they have in the jail.

In 2009, a Los Angeles Times article reported that the former Chief of Police Paul Walters increased the number of ICE Detainees “housed” in the jail in a futile attempt to cover a part of the growing deficit that the jail and police department were accumulating due to budget cuts, pension payments and mismanagement of resources. This is how gentrification looks like for undocumented people in Santa Ana. The SAPD has found a profitable place to keep the population in Santa Ana, which is being gentrified. Gentrification seems to profit many while at the same time breaking of the families of many more.

Classism and Racism

When working class people of color consumed and frequented the downtown area it was considered a public safety issue. When middle-class and rich hipsters drink in public in downtown Santa Ana it is considered a sign of a “healthy” economy and “vibrant” night life.

How is The Yost a part of the gentrification process?

Currently, The Yost is owned by the Chase family and leased out to Dennis Lluy and Dave Leon. Back in the days, The Yost was owned by the Olivos family who brought the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema to Santa Ana through The Yost. Today, The Yost has become a symbol for the Golden Age of Hipsters and gentrification in Santa Ana under the Chase family and the new people on the lease.

The Chase family has tried to improve its negative community reputation by allowing approved community renowned organizations (like Kidworks) which won’t be too critical of gentrification in public, to use The Yost as a venue for “free” on certain days and at certain times. That’s a clever public relations move that corporations often use to neutralize community discontent.

What is the problem?

Kidworks having the youth Summer Sensation event at The Yost for the second consecutive year is a pretty clear sign to the community that non-profits are always ready to sell the community out with apologetic justifications as a veil, such as but not limited to, “but it was a free venue and we had a low budget.” This intentional act of solidarity with the entities that are responsible for the gentrification of our communities which comes under the guise of “diversification” and “beautification” isn’t the fault of the youth involved, it is the fault of misinformed and neglectful youth organizers misleading and misguiding the youth. It is the fault of the poli-tricks of, “but it was a free venue.” The real question is, was it really free?